Taste chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and riesling while having a conversation via Zoom with Cal alum and vintner Stu Smith, who has been on the Napa Valley wine scene for almost 50 years. Smith-Madrone is a small producer of estate-grown grapes and artisanal wines and has an international reputation for beautifully crafted wines. Its riesling is recognized as one of the top-20 dry rieslings in the world.
Smith played football and rugby at Cal and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. While at Cal, Smith realized he liked wine more than beer and became an intercampus exchange student, taking the introductory winegrowing class at UC Davis. That led him to graduate school there, studying viticulture and enology, and he became the department’s first teacher’s assistant. In 1971, Smith founded Smith-Madrone with his brother, clearing the land, planting the vineyard, and building the winery located at the top of Spring Mountain just west of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. In the early years of establishing the winery, Smith taught enology and viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley Community College. He was chair of the 1986 Napa Valley Wine Auction and co-chaired the 2005 auction. Today, Smith is respected for his expertise and leadership as a mountain winegrower.